Vodka Yonic

Vodka Yonic features a rotating cast of women and nonbinary writers from around the world sharing stories that are alternately humorous, sobering, intellectual, erotic, religious or painfully personal. You never know what you’ll find in this column, but we hope this potent mix of stories encourages conversation.


 

It’s my last day of work, and I sit in my empty office in my empty building past sunset. 

After I put in my notice two weeks earlier, I started grabbing my personal items at the end of each day. One evening, some family photos. The next, a shelf my husband built that held my flowers and plants. Another day, a globe of unknown origin that has been in my possession long enough to be considered mine. I wanted to avoid the last-minute, box-in-arms departure with items representing my life as a journalist over the past eight years.

What I’d considered less was one item I would leave behind: a banged-up 2011 MacBook Pro. 

In the way that would infuriate IT people all over the world, the contents of that computer were a stupid mashup of personal and professional. I applied for child care between editing and writing stories on that computer. I scheduled dentist appointments and combed through lawsuit documents and looked up recipes for dinner and wrote my grandfather’s obituary. When the pandemic started, I learned how to turn a small room in my house into an office with that computer. 

When I first received it, I turned it upside down and sand shook loose from the keyboard — a gift from the previous owner’s beach vacation. I’d told that story a lot while toting the laptop around — showcasing my gritty, underdog spirit like a badge. Like saying, Yes, this thing might need to be restarted in the middle of a contentious school board meeting, but important work can still be done on it.

Toward the end, I could only work on the laptop if I turned on the fan plug-in and cranked it full blast. As these things go, the computer would work fine — never great — until I really needed it. It was too encumbered by the past — photos and stories and tax forms — to work the way it needed to in the high-pressure moments of my life and job.

At times I’d forget to get my fan going, open a couple tabs and then realize my mistake. I’d curse as I rushed to close windows and save my work before the inevitable rainbow wheel of death would begin spinning, making me late for a parent-teacher Zoom meeting or putting me 20 minutes behind editing a breaking news story. I knew that part of what was killing my computer was that it never got a break, but that never seemed to stop me.

On my last day, I should expect the computer to revolt when I start cleaning up the hard drive, but I don’t. That’s probably why I save this task for my last hours on the job. 

Move some files onto an external drive. Wait while the rainbow wheel spins. Buy more storage. Wait while the rainbow wheel spins. At 6:45 p.m., I send a panicked text to my company’s sole IT person. “I’m not sure I can clear this laptop the way I thought.” Right as the text sends, the computer freezes completely, now doing none of the three tasks I asked it to do. 

I’m in tears when I realize the text was more of a revelation than I intended. What I meant was that the logistics of transferring and deleting at this particular pace was bogging me down. But it also pinpointed something deeper: I don’t know if I can make myself reset this computer to factory settings. I don’t know if I can undo how personal I’ve made this.

Around 7:15 p.m., my husband texts me, trying to give me an out: “Maybe you could just take it home over the weekend and clear it off and drop it off next week.”

It reminds me of so many late nights working at the office, grudgingly deciding to take my work home with me. This thought spurs me on. I begin deleting, sorting and transferring files again. As it inches along, I look around my empty office, suddenly grateful that I had already taken everything home — my favorite books, the photobooth strips of my husband and me drunk at company Christmas parties, the stacks of magazines and newspapers from my desk. With nothing else to steal my attention, I look at the laptop and realize the fan is whirring full blast, the rainbow wheel has stopped moving and the final files are done transferring. A few clicks later and I close the top and walk out with just my purse, briefcase and coffee mug.

There’s a new work computer in my home office. There’s a different one for my personal life. And I’m starting to believe it’s a separation that should’ve happened a long time ago. 

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